EVEN when it has already been established that smoking has numerous health risks, kids and teens in Zambia have continued to smoke tobacco.
Sadly, many young people pick up these bad smoking habits every year – in fact, it is believed that about 90 per cent of all adult smokers today started when they were toddlers.
Kids might be drawn to smoking for any number of reasons which may include looking cool, acting older, losing weight, seeming tough, or feeling independent.
Yet they are totally oblivious to the fact that one reason that smoking brings is major health hazards it is because they contain the chemical known as nicotine.
Someone can easily get addicted to nicotine within days of first using it. In fact, the nicotine in tobacco can be as addictive as cocaine or heroin, which means that once a person starts to smoke, it’s very hard to stop.
These kids seem not to know that smoking can harm every body system and lead to health problems such as heart disease, stroke, emphysema (breakdown of lung tissue), and many types of cancer — including lung, throat, stomach, and bladder cancer.
Nobody can deny that they have not come across kids smoking, especially in our sprawling townships of Lusaka where life is rather ‘flowing’ and these children have no idea that smoking has an increased risk of infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
We therefore fully support calls by the National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) of government to enact a law to ban the sale of cigarettes to children and near school premises.
NAQEZ executive director, Aaron Chansa, says his organisation condemned the clear and systematic exposure of pupils to cigarettes.
Mr Chanda said the survey by the Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA) in 30 schools early this year, revealed that a total of 672 tobacco product sale points were located near schools.
The survey, intended to determine the level of exposure of school going children to tobacco products, also revealed that 274 permanent kiosks were selling tobacco products around the schools vicinity.
He said that the findings represented an average of nine kiosks per schools. That is shocking!
He noted with sadness that the reality appeared to be the same in most Zambian towns although the same could be true even in rural areas.
“The survey showed they were also 220 convenience groceries around these schools, with an average of more than seven stores for each school,’ said Mr Chanda.
“Multiple channels to advertise tobacco products are being used to capture the attention of school children and the use of tobacco to look like normal behaviour, when it kills one out of two smokers,” he said.
Mr Chanda says the sale of cigarettes in single sticks increased the affordability of commodity to young people and promoted dependency on tobacco from early ages.
He said surprisingly, of the 672 sale points around the 30 schools, only 61% displayed “No sale to minors” signs and that all the schools surveyed had very inviting tobacco advertisements on their windows and store doors.
Mr Chanda said the proximity of tobacco sale points of less than 100 meters made it easier for pupils to buy and smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“NAQEZ finds above facts as enough evidence that the tobacco industry has purposefully and systematically targeted school going children so as to increase accessibility to cigarettes and encourage initiation and addiction among young people,” he said.
But we also think that parents too should help combat those draws and keep kids away from trying and getting addicted to smoking.
They should keep on talking about it in a way that does not make kids fear punishment or judgment and encourage them to get involved in activities that prohibit smoking, such as sports.
That way Zambia should be on its way to winning the battle against child smokers for a healthy future generation.